McDowell Mountain Music Festival

The Top Seven Acts at McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2019

Kurt Vile plays at McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2019, this weekend in Hance Park.
Kurt Vile plays at McDowell Mountain Music Festival 2019, this weekend in Hance Park. Matador Records
McDowell Mountain Music Festival, or just M3F as it prefers to be called now, hasn’t even begun to peak as a music festival. Started back in 2004, and originally hosted in WestWorld of Scottsdale before moving to a parking lot in north Scottsdale for two years, M3F landed in Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park in 2014 where it has been hosted since.

Besides the many electronic dance music festivals around the year, the only music festivals in Phoenix that could top M3F are Pot of Gold, the hip-hop, reggae, and rock-focused festival in Steele Indian School Park, and Innings Festival at Tempe Beach Park. Innings is only on its second edition, and with an impressive rock-focused lineup it could remain a challenger to M3F. But we’ve seen other big music festivals come and go in recent years.

High hopes are riding on the growth of M3F as it continues to bring a mix of big-name artists with indie rock bands, EDM artists, and DJs to Phoenix to perform with a few local groups. While the headliners are almost certainly a must-see, here are our choices for bands and performers you should check out on each day of M3F. Julian Hernandez


Toro y Moi

Forget chillwave: Our boy Chaz B. has proven he can excel in nearly any style. His last three albums are a study in contrasts. First came the indie rock record What For? in 2015, while 2017 brought a smoother sound thanks to the album Boo Boo and its slow-jam single “Girl Like You.” His most recent album, Outer Peace, came out just a few weeks ago back in January, and it might just be his best yet, mixing goofy dance textures with a wry take on the hectic nature of modern artistry. Douglas Markowitz


Bringing a fresh mix of garage, surf, and psychedelic rock, the Los Angeles rockers channel decades of West Coast sun-soaked vibes and dreamy pop into their music. Formed in 2008 after three of the band members met each other while working at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, the Allah-Las’s musical knowledge has helped form their sound. With their musical understanding, they aren’t trying to re-create some long-lost sound, they’re redefining it. The vocal harmonies will make you want to pack a cooler and hit the beach, even if it’ll take you a few hours to get there. JH

Max Pain and the Groovies

The Brooklyn-based group plays a faster-paced variety of psychedelic rock ’n’ roll that’s more inclined to get you head banging than feeling peaceful. In fact, if you ever watch skate videos on Thrasher, you might have heard their music playing underneath the sounds of skateboard trucks grinding on metal rails. Their 2018 EP Sounds From the Hole sees the band picking up the pace as the guitar on “Checkin’ Out Late” never slows down. So you can start your M3F experience with either the electronic dance music of Kauf or with the riffs of Max Pain and the Groovies. My vote is with the riffs. JH


Kurt Vile and the Violators

Saturday is the longest day of M3F, and unless you have your secret fuel of choice with you to last through they day, you’re going to burn yourself out before you get to the chance to dance to Empire of the Sun or NoMBe. So grab yourself a patch on the grass in front of the Rattlesnake stage and enjoy the musical ballads of Kurt Vile and his backing band, the Violators, as the sun sets. Kurt Vile and the Violators are on their spring tour on the back of his 2018 album Bottle It In. JH

Kevin Morby

City music festivals have a different feel to them than one in a wide open state park. Kevin Morby knows what kind of energy city festivals bring, and he’s been writing songs about them for a long time. When Morby comes to Phoenix in March, he’ll have had a good rest since his last show in December and won’t be performing again until he embarks on his North American tour in May. So a five-month break with only one date scheduled in between the tour dates and it happens to be M3F? Expect a very special night with Morby. JH


Enter the Jungle and you’ll come for the music, but stay for the dancing. No, we’re not talking about your own feet (although they’ll certainly be moving) — this soulful collective hailing from foggy London town is famed for their intricate dance routines, on full display in their excellent, energetic videos. Their latest record, For Ever, was released late last year. DM


Maribou State

On their 2018 album Kingdoms in Color, the electronic duo of Chris Davids and Liam Ivory weave together vocal samples, synthesizers, keyboards, drums, bass, strings, and a myriad of international instruments both digital and organic. From the drums and strings on “Beginner’s Luck” to the dance club ready “Turnmills” that took two years to record, Kingdoms in Color is an international experiment of music. Maribou State began touring North America with their full live band for Kingdoms in Color in earlier this month. Consider their set a warmup if you plan on closing the night to Opiou. JH

McDowell Mountain Music Festival. March 1 to 3 at Margaret T. Hance Park, 1134 North Central Avenue; 602-343-0453; Tickets are $70 to $145 via
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Julian Hernandez